Jon Campbell is an American singer-songwriter and visual artist based in Berlin. His music brings together threads of anti-folk, singer-songwriter and alt-country with a powerfully honest expression of his homosexuality. His first full length album ‘Sirens’ was released in 2019 following his debut EP ‘About a Boy’ in 2016.
What are your favourite qualities in a song?
I love when verses in a song follow a steady, consistent form yet are very different from one another at the same time, through varying arrangements, phrasing, rhyme schemes and lyrics. On the one hand, you’re being lulled into a kind of hypnosis through repeating patterns, and on the other hand you’re on the edge of your seat in anticipation of the next bit. It’s like a magic trick. And it’s a kind of “push and pull” which is also part of painting.
Where do you look for inspiration?
When I’m creating, having an idea when creating – when something drops into your mind’s eye or ear when painting or writing music. Those “Eureka” moments are everything.
As a performer, what makes a show special or memorable?
When I can allow myself to be as vulnerable as possible, to have basically zero protection emotionally and feel not just safe, but to feel a strong wave of love from an audience. It’s the most life-affirming feeling I can think of.
As an audience member, what makes a show special or memorable?
Feeling like the performer is authentic in what they’re doing, that they’re in tune with the room and able to bring everyone along with them on their emotional wavelength and on a journey.
What is your idea of success?
To me, success is enjoying the privilege to spend anywhere from 1 to 14 hours a day creating art and music, and doing so every single day, for as long as I possibly can.
What is something you would like to learn more about?
I’d like to learn to play the piano. I write songs with a guitar and I write arrangements with a free, open source scoring software called MuseScore. I’m curious how my songs would sound if they grew out of a piano instead.
What was your biggest musical failure?
In 2012 I played a solo acoustic set at a bar in Friedrichshain called “zur Glühlampe”. I was a practicing alcoholic at the time and doing a 5-star job with that practice. I hadn’t gotten on a stage for many years prior due to anxiety disorders and stage fright, so I threw back some 8 or 9 shots and a beer or two before getting on stage. I didn’t fall down or anything but I was just completely gone, not with the room at all, in my head, going through the motions in a weird, disconnected fog. The audience was actually totally silent and really attentive but it was more like a strange performance piece than an actual live set. I was performing what I thought a performance is, like a drunken game of charades, if that makes any sense. In any case, it wasn’t cute.
What was your biggest musical success?
I’m proud of the live show I produced for my album ‘Sirens
‘. The record is all acoustic instruments and they were recorded one instrument at a time, so the first time I really got to hear the whole album happening live – all 13 instruments at once plus a choir – was the rehearsal we did the evening before the release concert. We rehearsed the set twice, back-to-back; so at the release show, the audience was hearing the third time the album had ever been performed live as a whole. It was exciting to experience it so new together with the audience, like we were being introduced to it at the same time.
Kendrick Lamar has been my GOAT since DAMN. The way he spun gold out of such a dark moment in history, balanced perfectly on the precipice of art and politics / identity, and created an unbelievably deep and intricate masterpiece in the process. My head explodes every time I listen to it. Damn. Also James Blake (who also contributed to DAMN.) as well as many others.
What was the first song you have ever written like?
It was called “Shut Up and Sing”. I wrote it when I was 16 and it was about how I couldn’t tell a straight friend at school that I was in love with him, so I had to “shut up and sing” it to him, which I did, because I have zero filter when I fall in love and never have. So I recorded the song in a studio in Woodstock, NY near my home, burned it onto a CD and the next time my straight crush and I were in his car I popped in the CD, played him the song and when it was over I said: “It’s about you”. So yeah, filter? What’s that? Anyway, he was impressed, so I kept writing songs.
Who deserves a shoutout and why?
. If you hear her sing live, you won’t need any explanation why. Follow her on Instagram @callmedeta